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Video - Home Recording- Five Key Things You Need?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by DonnyThompson, Sep 24, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Warren Huart, producer and engineer for acts like Aerosmith, James Blunt, Korn, and others, has this video on YouTube, where he talks about the 5 Key Things that every home studio should have. He also talks about the things that he feels aren't as important; most notably, pro level mics, pre's, converters and monitors.

    I totally understand budget constraints, and I don't think that someone who wants to record their own music should ever be held back by the fact that they can't afford a U87, SSL pre, an Apogee conversion system or Focal monitors.
    I've always been a proponent for songwriters and musicians using whatever they have, and focusing on the creative and performance parts of the process, especially with songwriting. In this case, creativity is front and foremost. Get the ideas down, work with them, write and re-write, arrange and rearrange. And for this, you don't need a $2000 Antelope converter.

    It's when he starts saying things like "You don't need these things to get professional sounding recordings", or "You don't need these things to make professional, studio quality recordings these days" and "Knowing your DAW is much more important than Mics, Preamps and Converters" that I sit up and start to take notice, and to take exception to what he's saying.

    The problem I have with this video is that he doesn't discern between a songwriter's/musician's home studio, and a commercial home studio; with the sole intent of serving clients.

    Anyone who happens to be watching this, and has maybe been thinking about opening a home commercial studio, has just been told by Warren Huart - pro engineer and producer - that gear doesn't matter, that they can absolutely turn out professional studio results with an $89 condenser mic, a $75 pre/I-O, and a pair of $90 monitors.

    BTW - I couldn't help but notice that he just so happens to be sitting in front of a pro console and racks of
    hi-dollar OB processing while at the same time telling the viewer that "gear doesn't matter..."
    ( So Warren, can you tell us... did you use a Behringer C1 or a Samson USB mic on Steven Tyler?)

    Do I agree that you can get pro sounding recordings out of a home studio? Yes. Absolutely. But it needs to be properly equipped. Pro caliber gear needs to be used. Rooms need to be treated, Pro mics, pro preamps, pro converters, pro monitors... you ain't gonna get it done with a Tascam pre/I-O, a couple 58's, an $89 condenser and a pair of $90 Wharfedale Monitors. Knowledge is also crucial, and one of the "knows" within that knowledge, is that there's a big difference between cheap, budget gear, and professional caliber equipment.

    I'm also not saying that people shouldn't start out with cheaper gear. No one here, (with perhaps the exception of Remy, LOL), started out their journey in this craft by mixing on a Neve, using multi-thousand dollar mics and pre's. We all started out with cheaper gear.
    Hell, the very first "overdub" I ever did was at my dad's office, where there were a couple Realistic table-top office style cassette decks - I sang the melodic line of The Beatle's If I Fell onto one machine, and then, while that deck was playing back the lead vocal, I sang a harmony part, and recorded both to the other deck. Ahh... the fidelity! But I caught the bug that day.

    Today, younger people entering the world of recording have it much better than guys from my generation did when we were first starting out. But there's still a huge difference between budget and pro... and I would have liked for Huart to have explained that, because I feel that he's misleading the viewers; the result of which could very well be an even greater flood of people entering this craft who have no business doing so.

    angel72bg likes this.
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I guess the main message here is ; Get going, what ever the budget you have. Waiting for better gear or taking that as an excuse to not to do any music will get you nowhere ! ;)
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I agree that there is a big variance among home studios. The ones that the hype is referring to are the pro home studios. Rick Rubin has a home studio, ya know?
    Mic technique and to a certain extent the production and coaching part gets lost in many of the lesser budget recording situations. Being able to blend your love recorded tracks with samples is also a very evasive part of the art. Be a bad blend crap samples or cheese city bad samples and rigid programming ruin a lot of non electronica based home productions.
    The compromise of a semi professional 'live' drum recoding is usually the big presence and fullness from samples. And the art of the blend is born.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    And I support this. I just get a bit concerned when pro's publically state that "you don't need the gear that we pro's use to get professional recordings"...
    It's when a pro engineer - like Huart - says that any home studio - using that cheap gear - can have the same level of quality that a pro room has.

    If he really believed that, he could make a pretty decent amount of money selling all that pro-level gear that surrounds him in the video... and then just use cheap stuff instead.

    I also feel that there's an advantage to going through a period of using cheaper-level gear; in that the more you can get out of the budget-level stuff, the better you'll be when you do eventually upgrade. If you hone your chops on the less expensive gear, get to know all the tools of the trade, and manage to turn out decent mixes on an entry-level rig, you'll be able to really shine when you step up to more professional equipment. You'll also be able to hear that much more of the difference between the two levels when you do step up.

    Even you've said it yourself, Mon Ami'.... that when you stepped up to your first pro level preamp, you heard a huge difference, and right away. Part of this - I think, is because - like most of us - you'd been forced to work with cheaper gear up to that point, but during that time, you were still honing your listening skills and mixing chops ... So when pro level gear did become available to you, you were able to discern the difference that much more, and, to use it with that much more knowledge.

    That's not to say that you can't have a pro level studio in your home these days, because you absolutely can, if you know what you're doing, and if can afford to stock it with pro-level gear ...and many here have done this.... but you're not going to achieve that pro level of sonic quality if you're using a Behringer C1 and a $89 Tascam Pre as your primary gain chain.

    I don't have any problems with musicians/songwriters using what they have to showcase their creativity and talent. I think they absolutely should use whatever they have at their disposal to do this, and if this means having to use the Behringer C1 mic and Tascam Pre, then so be it. Cheap gear should not be an obstacle to creativity.

    It is, however, an obstacle to fidelity. ;)

    IMHO of course.

    pcrecord and kmetal like this.
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    It's weird because good gear can both make you sound better, and reveal weaknesses. None of these commercial records are using the stuff you get at GC. Compared to a Tascam 4 track today's entry level gear is far more capable, mainly in electronica, making it possible to produce fully fleshed out productions. Other than that the gap between home and high end professional hasn't changed much, they have always been and remain three steps ahead of home recording.

    I think there a lot many home recordists out there limited by the gear they use. It's an art yes, but I bet if everyone's basement was full of the best gear, we would hear a ton of high caliber recordings from homes.mive heard many good home recordings, they just almost always have an identifiable sound to them that gives them away as home recordings. I've never been able to not make home sounding productions at home, but Ive also never had a studio either, just regular rooms w some panels.
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    That is VERY true Kyle. For example, as most of us know, good reference monitors are not very flattering, and often aren't even especially 'musical', but you'll hear depth and details you cannot hear on garden-variety speakers.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    This is very true, I started very cheap and grow out of my gear while Learning the craft.
    I get you that saying the recordings could be pro caliber with cheap gear wasn't his best affirmation.
    But, I'm force to say that cheap gear has it's purpose of giving easy access to newbie to start recording, train their ears and learn how to record and mix...

    The funny thing is, encourraging people to record instead of hiring a pro makes a dillution of general quality we can expect in the future.
    I guess the ones that will profit the most of this are the mastering engineer. I can go to a pro studio and even without mastering, the recording would be nice to present to friends, get gigs and sell some off the stage. If I do start to record, with cheap to average gear, I'm bound to have many defects in my recordings and chances are, I'll have more needs for a mastering engineer than if it was professionnally recorded.

    But one very important thing most musicians are forgetting is that while you learn recording and mixing skills, you ain't playing music anymore. You're just turning knobs and moving a mouse and learn analytic skills that are far more creative then playing an instrument.
    So my take on it is to say : Know what you want to do.
    • If you want to put out an album, find a pro or home studio that fits your buget to do it for you.
    • If you want to record others, buy a setup you can afford and start recording yourself and anyone to learn... Then when you'll be ready to charge for it, it'll be time to gear up for higher quality..
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  8. Guelph_Guy

    Guelph_Guy Active Member

    I have breakfast periodically with other home studio owners. Most of them are musicians first and studio owners second. There objective was to have the convenience to record when they wanted. But what I hear at breakfast is they just want to" hit record and lay it down "while they have that inspirational moment.
    However the recording skills are lacking and their workflow is poorly set up. By the time they get their studio turned on and running, they have lost the inspiration or desire to do it. This has been the main theme...
    I think , "know what you want to do" pretty much sums it up.

    However, the art of recording is an "action" , you can read about it all you want but if you don't put it into play, you haven't learned anything but a concept. It would be better to record on "pro-sumer " gear and learn the skills and develop your ear. If anything the lesser gear will make you work harder to get the sound you want.
    pcrecord likes this.
  9. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    I don't get the sense that he's talking abut anything on a professional home studio level. Suggesting a 2 input interface will be all you need if you aren't doing drums or a whole band live pretty much rules out pro home studio in my mind. Sound like it's geared towards if you are musician singer songwriter that wants to put out your own album at the most.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I was totally fine with the whole " you can get good recordings at home without huge amounts of money" thing, because it's true... you can get good recordings. And I was still right there with him when he said that "creativity is the most important thing for a songwriter"... I couldn't agree more. It is crucial to get those ideas down as fast as you can, because every songwriter knows that when those gems hit you - and often all too rarely - they will often come out of nowhere, and fast, too. But, they can also disappear just as quickly as well, so time is of the essence, and in that scenario, creativity counts more than quality... in that scenario.

    It's when he made the suggestion that " you don't need to use what the pros use to get professional sounding recordings" ... while at the same time sitting in front of thousands and thousands of dollars worth of professional level recording gear, that I did a double-take and winced.

    Because of the affordability and easy access to digital recording gear and platforms these days, perhaps the term "professional sound quality" has become somewhat skewed and subjective to a lot of those people. It hasn't become subjective to me, I can definitely hear the difference between a track off of James Taylor's latest album and what "Joe Smith" is doing in his basement with a $59 AT2020 mic and an $89 Tascam pre - but I think that in recent years, the bar of what true quality is has been lowered to accommodate the perceptions of those masses of people who have entered into the home "studio" scene - at least half of whom can't hear the actual difference between what they are using in their bedrooms and basements, and what studios like Ocean Way or Blackbird are using... and, it's entirely possible that these people might not ever be able to hear that difference, even if you had them compare the two "qualities" side by side.

    So, I suppose that if we widen the definition of "professional-sounding recordings" to include the sonic results of those who have managed to successfully print a signal from their USB microphone to a track on their DAW - then yes, under that criteria, I guess that would be considered as being "professional" in sound quality.

    I have nothing against entry-level gear. It serves several useful purposes - one of which, as Marco mentioned, is to get these people immersed in the process, and learning the craft with what they have. Limitations can be a good thing; because the only way we learn is to do everything we can to get past those limitations, and the result is that we learn, and gradually, we get better at what we do. And, when those people eventually do step up to better gear, not only are they now more sensitive to the differences in quality - because their ears have become better-tuned to those differences - but they will also do better work because they were trained on gear which forced them to learn the other things that matter - gain structure, mic placement and technique, EQ, GR, etc., bettering their knowledge to where they can take full advantage of that better equipment.

    IMHO of course.

  11. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    It depends, when I hear stuff like the Strokes, and Iggy pops lust for life. I don't think that material was recorded with the most fidelic stuff around. Loser by Beck was recorded with a home studio 4 track or 8 track. To me his focus is on "Don't think you can't make good music without the best gear"

    His suggestions are for a beginner home studio guy that just wants to make music. Also sometimes cheap stuff has a great unique sound. He was more focused on Silvertone guitars than mics but I would rather use a 57 to get a strokes kinda vocal sound than a U87.

    There might be some people out there than take the suggestion that only need a cheap 2 channel interface and Behringer mics are all you need to put out a Grammy but I doubt it. It's more words of encouragement and to don't have the idea that it's not worth doing if you can't afford the best.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I hear ya... and those are pretty good examples to support your opinion. I would counter, however, that those examples you gave are exceptions, and, were intentionally recorded and mixed with that lo-fi vibe in mind to begin with.

    Beck's Loser or Where It's At were meant to be lo-fi - that sound was intentional for the overall effect, vibe and presentation of those songs - and the other artists you mentioned - like The Strokes or Iggy - aren't known for caring all that much about fidelity to begin with, because that's also a big part of their styles - they don't want to sound "studio"... and that's fine - and it works great for them. The various warts and sonic fugglies in their music are a part of what makes them attractive to those who are into them.

    And still, there are others who are after a certain sonic purity as part of their signature sound - Steely Dan, Alan Parsons, etc., are artists who are known for placing as much priority on the hi fidelity of their recordings as they do with the quality of the songwriting and performances that they record.

    But those are exceptions, Chris, on both extremes. The internet is flooded with awful-sounding mixes from people who aren't necessarily doing as such intentionally - a'la Beck - but more from the approach that they are convinced that their stuff sounds great... when it doesn't.

    I guess my point is, that I hear a lot more stuff online these days that sounds like it was recorded at home through cheap gear ... and ultimately, they show up here, (or on one of the other recording sites) - either wanting to know why their mixes don't sound as good as what they hear with commercial releases ( which is fine, that's why we're here) - or - perhaps not so fine - convinced that what they are getting is professional in sound quality, and they're looking for confirmation, and then they get pissed when they don't get that confirmation. Thankfully, we seem to get more of the former here on RO then we do the latter.

    But that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of those out there who still release bad-sounding mixes, while at the same time thinking that they're the cat's ass.

    FWIW, I'd like to see encouragement continued to given to beginner artists... it's important that they know that they can write good material if they work hard at it...and for what they are doing, they don't need a Neve desk with racks of second-mortgage priced gear. It's just that at the same time, I would also like to see them encouraged to eventually work towards upgrading what they use, and to not accept a Behringer or Tascam pre with a $59 dollar Chinese condenser mic as their "I've now got everything I need, my go-to, end all-be all to get professional sounding recording" rig.

    I will say this... I do like those low-budget gear users for one reason: They make the quality that I get sound a lot better by comparison. LOL ;)
  13. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    Most of the issues on quality of material in forums is due to people not knowing how to use the gear they have. Very rarely will better gear fix the main issues of mic placement, performance, crappy mixes levels etc and people with little experience.

    He mentioned knowing your DAW inside and out is more important than having high priced gear. I know that I know Cubase well as I've used it for 15 years but I can't say I know it inside out and I'm learning new features all the time that I never used before.

    In the end better gear is better unless you are going for a low fi sound. Only if you know how to use it though. Being clueless as to how things work with expensive gear will be far worse than knowing the fundamentals of recording with budget gear. To me I got the impression that he expected the user to know how to use the gear.
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    There just aren't that many, if any recordings that were commercial successes done on Berlinger or presonus gear. No way. 4/8- track has a particular lo fi sound that I personally like. Limited bandwidth and tape noise doesn't mean you make bad mixes or recordings. But those have a particular sound, like a rat distortion pedal. People use them now for that sound they offer, not because it's what they can afford.

    The recordings that were done 'at home' on these big budget things are often redone, and it's a few of the tracks, not the drums and bass, Ect the main backbone of the song. And these are done by pros, on even modest pro gear. The Adele rolling In The deep vocal comes to mind, I believe it was an apogee duet, and a ride k2? They couldn't top the performance. Give it to Tom elmherst and have him mix on his ssl and a Grammy you have.

    The type of guitar center gear isn't what 'records' are made on. If it were, that's what studios would use across the board. You can still make good recordings just like on a four track, but they will not have the polished big studio sound. Nobody will argue it's not listenable or even good really good sounding, but it won't sound like the best money can buy. There's a difference between the production didn't get away of a song, and that huge commercial sound.

    I'll stop believing that it's just marketing hype, when I start hearing a lot of hit records done on presonus interfaces in rooms with $200 of foam in them. If it was possible people would be doing it. The biggest problem out there is lack of creativity and subjectively good songwriting.
  15. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    I'm not sure how saying being creative and good at what you do is more important than having the best gear gets turned into marketing hype. Most gear now days if you know how to use it can make a decent recording. In alot.of case better tha pro gear from the 80s and 90s that you would see in pro level home or demo studios.
  16. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    The hype is simply that budget gear will somehow make you more than a budget recording. None of these home recordings done on this budget gear is supporting national tours, or selling thousands of copies. Unless it's purely electronic/sample based music, the big time sound is just as expensive and hard to attain as it ever was.
    DonnyThompson and audiokid like this.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Indeed. (y)
  18. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    When you struggle for many years on budget gear and then get a glimpse of highend, you go AAHHH !! It simply just get easier. :)

    If you are truely pationnated about recording, get the gear your budget can buy because any gear will get you going.
    But if you are not very pationnate about recording and just want to record an album.. Please don't waste your time, energy and money.. Go to a pro studio and worry only about delivering a good performance !!

    That's what I'd say to anyone asking about recording !
    audiokid, kmetal and DonnyThompson like this.
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Absolutely agreed. I never said that people shouldn't do it just because they can't afford pro gear - everyone has to start somewhere, and I don't know of any one of my colleagues who, when first starting out, were using Neve/SSL/Trident desks and racks full of LA2's, 1176's, Lexicons, Eventides and Focusrite Reds.

    Most guys in my generation - guys like @audiokid , @Boswell, @Thomas W. Bethel, and others who are now in their 50's and 60's, all of us pretty much started out on 1/4" -1/2" tape, and maybe a simple split 8 or 16 x 4 x 2 desk, one really nice condenser and a handful of good dynamics and maybe a ribbon or two. As time passed, we upgraded along the way to wider, faster formats, bigger desks with better pre's and EQ, more mics, better mics, and began adding certain OB pieces to our racks that we could occasionally afford... like Pultecs, LA2's, 1176's, Lexicons, etc.

    When midi came along, we dove into that, too ( at least those of us who were able to foresee how huge it was going to be with modern production did ). And when digital began to rear its head as "the next big thing", we bought DAT machines, then computers, ADDA audio cards, and we learned as much as we could about that technology, too.

    But all of it was a gradual process. No one - or maybe I should say almost no one - started out in the craft with a half million dollars worth of audio and midi gear in their basement or attic studios. We all started small and basic, learning every chance we could get - about gain structure, mic technique, EQ, GR - and then about digital, which involved computers, time code, converters ... so it was always an ever-changing process that we learned. We made countless mistakes, learned from them, and pushed the limitations of the gear we had at any given time. And as time and money allowed, we improved our situations. But I don't believe that any of us ever let the fact that we didn't have an SSL E Series in our attic studios stop us from creating, or helping others to fulfill their creative visions. Like everyone else who ever started out in the craft, I also started small, and made do with what I had.

    But ... I never fooled myself into thinking that I could ever compete with - or get the same quality of audio as - places like Criteria, or Sound City, The Record Plant or The Hit Factory.
    And, for as far as we have come in technology, ( which is amazing) and for as good of quality as we can now get with the affordable gear that most home studios use, as Kyle ( @kmetal ) said in his previous post, "the big time sound is just as expensive and hard to attain as it ever was."

    Eventually, if you stick with it long enough, there'll come that one moment - that single particular point in time, when you finally get a chance to work with and hear what truly pro gear sounds like and how it responds, and it's like an epiphany, like a bolt from the blue - as Marco (@pcrecord ) said, it's that "ahhhh!!" moment, where you can't help but to be knocked flat on your ass by how huge of a difference there really is, because it's just so obvious...

    But as an artist, as a creative spirit, the gear being used - or lack of it - shouldn't ever hold anyone back from recording and pursuing their artistic visions. If they are truly passionate about writing and creating music - then they should absolutely use whatever they can afford; and make the best with what they have ... but if they really want a pro sounding product, then at some point, they'll need to seek out a facility that has that truly pro gear, and that is staffed by cats who are also professional, and who know how to use that gear.

    IMHO of course. ;)

    audiokid likes this.
  20. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I think most musicians who set up home studios go into it with the intention of capturing what they create in an easy and affordable way.
    If I had put every dollar I'd ever spent in rehearsal and recording studios in the last 25 years into my own little space then maybe I'd be closer to attaining that big time sound at home than where I am now. But hey, no regrets and no disrespect to the pro-guys out there at all.(y)
    What attracts me to being able to do it in the comfort of home is the ability to be able to walk in, press record and enjoy what I do in the process, without having to be stuffed around trying to co-ordinate 4 or 5 like minded people, all working to their own timetables & schedules, booking rooms all the while trying to juggle full time jobs and families along the way.

    Anyhoo, I rubbed those stars out of my eyes years ago ;)

    Sometimes life gets in the way when you are trying to juggle all that and have a hobby like music, as I'm sure we have all experienced in one way or another.
    But it gives me the ability to do what I love and are passionate about without costing me an arm or a leg (or another wife for that matter....)
    I like the fact that it doesn't have to cost me the earth to enjoy what I do at home, I can work to my own time frame, not have to put up with other tortured genius musicians with wanna-be rock-star egos, and at the end of the day have something to show for it and enjoy listening to.
    I know my budget gear is not going to get me the pro-level sound I could get if I paid good money to do so in a studio, but for what I do and why I do it, how I do it suits my needs.
    But I suppose like the many others out there and on this forum who are bitten by the bug, eventually over time the need to purchase better and more expensive gear kicks in and there is a natural progression to upgrade along the journey when the wallet allows, otherwise I'd still be recording on the old Boss BR-1180.

    But thats the joy of the hunt I suppose...one day I'd love to look back and see a lot more high-end gear stuffed in my little home studio....
    - I'd just have to work out how to sneak it all in there without being caught by the Minister For War & Finance:sneaky:

    Hopefully I won't be too old to use it by then:(
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